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Is Mineral Makeup Dangerous to Long-Term Health?

By Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger
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First, we’re told liquid makeup has harmful chemicals and mineral makeup is healthier. Now, a well-known medical professional says mineral makeup is more dangerous than liquid.

An obscure product just a few years ago, mineral makeup is now part of nearly every cosmetic brand’s product line. Millions of women use it, many of them doing so because they wanted to stop using liquid foundations which put chemical ingredients into their skin. A key selling point for mineral products is that they come from the earth and consist of natural minerals such as zinc and titanium. That doesn’t mean they don't contain chemicals, minerals are made up of chemical elements, but since the companies don’t put in additional chemical ingredients they claim the products are purer.

Web M.D. offers different points of view on mineral makeup. On the one hand, they state key ingredients have been the basis of most makeup foundations for decades and quote an expert who calls mineral makeup marketing hype. On the other hand, Web M.D. states, “dermatologists report that because mineral makeup frequently eliminates classic ‘irritants’ – like fragrances, binders, synthetic dyes and preservatives -- it is considered ‘purer’ and can be kinder to the skin.”

Dr. Oz Says Throw Out Your Mineral Makeup:

Thousands of women are now wondering whether or not to use these products. On a television show segment about the most dangerous beauty products, Dr. Mehmet Oz declared mineral makeup unsafe and told women to stop using it.

From Dr. Oz. com, “Mineral makeup is a big trend. Made from minerals such as mica, which are used for industrial purposes as well, these tiny particles are a thousand times smaller than predecessors from even 10 years ago. Their small size makes for a smoother, more flawless look, but it has one serious unintended consequence. The particles are so tiny they fall quickly through the air and can be inhaled easily into your lungs. When construction workers use mica in products such as spackle, they wear masks to protect their lungs from scarring over time. Though there are no studies showing damage from makeup use to date, experts say the long-term use and inhalation of minerals in makeup can lead to inflammation, irritation and lung disease in women and girls.”

Dr. Oz advised women to stop wearing mineral makeup and switch to a liquid-based foundation “with shimmer for a similar effect as a mineral powder.” He added, “If you must use powder, select a pressed power and open a window when you apply it.” He did not address the chemicals contained in liquid foundations.

Leading Mineral Makeup Firm Responds:

The top-selling mineral makeup product company is San Francisco-based Bare Escentuals. CEO Leslie Blodgett issued the following statement through the company’s Facebook page:

“The safety and well being of every customer is of paramount concern at Bare Escentuals... There is absolutely no credible scientific evidence that our mineral cosmetic products can be easily inhaled into the lungs, much less linking our mineral cosmetic products with negative health effects. Unsupported allegations that all mineral cosmetic products are 'dangerous,' based on what unidentified 'experts' have supposedly said, are unnecessarily alarming and fear-inducing because such allegations are simply not supported by any credible evidence. We stand behind our products and look forward to continuing to provide high quality products to the millions of women whose lives have been touched by bareMinerals.”

What You Really Need to Know:

While mineral makeups may look alike, there is a critical difference you need to be aware of if you use this product. Some mineral make-ups use ultra-fine particles, called nanoparticles, which can be inhaled and embedded in the lungs. Nanoparticles also penetrate the skin more easily and may even penetrate the circulatory system. Not much is known about their impact on humans yet, but studies are underway.

Most mineral make-ups, however, including Bare Minerals, don’t use nanoparticles. They use larger micronized ingredients that they state are too large to penetrate the lungs and cells. Micronized ingredients are measured in millionths of a meter. This makes a micron 1000 times larger than a nanometer. Most mineral make-up companies claim to use a median particle size of 12-15 microns or higher (12,000-15,000 nanometers and up).

What You Should Do:

First, know whether your mineral make-up uses nanoparticles or micronized particles. Some state which they use on their websites. You can also look up multiple brands here:

Second, reduce airborne dust when putting on mineral makeup. Work the powder into the brush before applying it. If you shake out the brush, do so away from your face.

Third, if you decide to drop mineral makeup and switch to a liquid, study the product ingredients first. Most contain multiple chemicals so know what you’re getting.

The bottom line, buyer beware. None of these products are subject to review or approval from the Food and Drug Administration and the industry is self-regulated. It’s up to the consumer to understand the chemicals used in make-up, proper application and what’s in one’s best interest.

About the author: Pat Elliott is a journalist and blogger who has written about health issues for more than 20 years. She is also a cancer survivor who coaches people on how to manage their transition and take control of their new future.








Add a Comment14 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

This is very interesting. I am a healthy, non-smoking 42 year old female who has been using mineral make up for about three years now. I was recently diagnosed with a 4 inch tumor on my left lung and my lung specialist and I have been racking our brains trying to figure out what I have been exposed to. The center of the tumor is dead but the PET scan shows activity and he is convinced that it was caused by something in the environement that I have been exposed to over a long period of time. I am meeting with a surgeon next week to schedule surgery to have it removed.

December 10, 2010 - 3:52pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger (reply to Anonymous)

I'm sorry to hear that you're experiencing this. Your comments are very interesting and I certainly hope that you are able to find out exactly what's caused the tumor.

You may also want to explore your area's air quality reports. I live in an area in which invisible air pollution particulates are causing severe lung damage to many people, and it's now showing up in issues affecting young children. Just a thought...

Will you keep us posted and let us know what you learn?

December 10, 2010 - 3:57pm
EmpowHER Guest

My 13 year old daughter almost died from pneumonia which we believe was caused by using Mary Kay's mineral loose foundation/powder. We have no absolute proof yet, but they have run hundreds of tests, infectious disease doctors, 4 days in the hospital and have found nothing infectious. She does have seasonal asthma which may have also been a factor. I took her to her pediatrician on Monday & they said it was a virus. By Wednesday she could barely breathe & I rushed her to the ER, where they admitted her with full blown pneumonia.. GET THIS STORY OUT & BE CAREFUL!!! I was selling Mary Kay and now do not use mineral makeup or loose powder of any kind.. Deanna F/ Houston

July 28, 2010 - 8:18pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger (reply to Anonymous)

Deanna - I'm sorry to hear about your daughter and hope her recovery is going well. I too have asthma, and I have had one occasion where it developed into pneumonia.

As the EmpowHER news article states, there are different types of mineral make ups and only a very small percentage of mineral make up is the type that may be dangerous. Some use ultra-fine particles, called nanoparticles, which can be inhaled and embedded in the lungs.

Most mineral make-ups, however, DO NOT use nanoparticles. They use larger micronized ingredients that they state are too large to penetrate the lungs and cells.

The data on exactly which type of particle this particular company uses is not readily available. You may want to contact them directly for this information to help determine whether the make-up had any potential to have a role in your daughter's illness.

Best wishes to you both,

July 28, 2010 - 8:48pm

Pat, please cover methylparbens, triclosan, 1,4 dioxane, nitrosamines, PEG's and other known carcinogens and toxic ingredeints. Everyone needs to learn more about the dangers we all face. Ava's FB page regularly lists article links relating to environmental toxins.

The average baby in 2004 (EWG, Red Cross) was born with 287 chemicals in their cord blood.

Phthalates are in most of what we use, and phthalates are being linked to autism, ADHD, and behavioral problems, reduced sperm counts and a host of other issues, including cancer. This is so important for people to realize.

Thank you.

[link removed by EmpowHer Moderator]

February 18, 2010 - 5:48am

Rosa, pleaase look up all of your products. You will be shocked what you find.

Check out Ava Anderson's products... hers is the first line, ever, where every ingredient in every product is a "0" on the cosmetics database.com. She has great information on her site.

For instance, look out for the word "fragrance" on your ingredient label. Manufacturers can legally hid up to 600 chemicals in that one word. It is called trade secret. Accoridng to EWG (Environmental Working Group) who tested products with the word "fragrance" on the label, 83% are hiding phthalates. Look up phthalates on Ava's toxic page.... this is not anything that you want ot be slathering on your skin (and into your blood stream...) or your children's.

Also, Europe has 1,324 banned ingredients, the USA has 9. So, manufacturers must clean up their products to distribute overseas, but leave the toxic chemicals in for us!

The word "natural" menas nothing. I guarantee you that your lipstick is at least a 5, and probably more like a 7-9 on the database. Remember, that it is not about the overall score, you must click on the product and scroll down to the disease implications of your ingredients..... you are going to be shocked.

BTW, Ava just turned 16.

[Link Removed by EmpowHer Moderator]

February 18, 2010 - 5:44am
EmpowHER Guest

Well, if you are listening to Dr. Oz then lipgloss is dangerous as well.

February 9, 2010 - 10:16am
(reply to Anonymous)

I'm not but thanks for the info!

February 9, 2010 - 10:29am

Thank you for sharing Pat. It makes a lot of sense-- but for me, it's just easier to not wear any makeup other than lip gloss.

I think every man made item does some degree of harm to the person-- nothing is 100% safe. Everything in moderation is a good motto to live by.

February 9, 2010 - 8:14am

Nice report Pat. Thanks for sharing.

February 9, 2010 - 3:07am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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